tl;dr, Vol. 2: You Don’t NEED To Be So Aggro…
When the dominant adult males of a troop of 62 Kenyan baboons chased off a neighbouring troop in 1982, they didn’t know that their prize – discarded meat from a tourist lodge – was tainted. The inadvertent poisoning of the aggressive alpha males, however, did not result in the dissolution of the troop. What happened instead was a kind of baboon renaissance.
The remaining males, the “betas” too weak to fight rival males, along with the surviving females and young baboons, created a new culture where affection and mutual grooming replaced violence as the means of enforcing group harmony. What’s even more remarkable that this tilt toward pacifism continued even though the male survivors aged and died out and new males from elsewhere joined the troop.
Even twenty years later, the troop continued on this path of peacefulness… which means that, somehow, the baboons taught each other how to behave. Aggressiveness, it seems, was not innate. It’s learned, or in the case of the baboons, it’s un-learned.
If the baboons are the mashal, the parable… what’s the nimshal – the lesson?
At ADRABA, we talk a lot about “tradition” and Jewish culture. But when you hear those words, what comes to mind? Something immutable, fixed with a patina of history? Or do you think about something that, despite its age and seeming fixedness, is dynamic and always growing and changing?
We think of the latter … and we think of the baboons and the radical potential of teaching the good and useful – and having it stick.